200 Hillel Student Leaders Connect at Hillel International Global Student Assembly



August 15, 2023

Roll call: 

Dylan Hamerman and Rebecca Weiss are on their way home from a weekend of connection, learning, and celebrating with almost 200 fellow student leaders at Hillel International’s Global Student Assembly (GSA). They took some time to reflect on their experience and speak about how they will bring the inspiration from the GSA back to their home communities and campuses. 

After a 12 hour flight from Tel Aviv to Newark, New Jersey, and a four hour bus ride from New York City, Rebecca arrived at the GSA as one of Hillel Israel’s representatives for the weekend. Rebecca grew up in Toronto and attended Jewish day schools. Following graduation, she moved to Israel when she was seventeen years old. Before serving in the Israeli army, she participated in a gap year program and connected with other young adults interested in leadership. 

Those lessons in leadership stayed with her through her army service and into her studies at Ben Gurion University where she became involved with Hillel Israel. Hillel’s commitment to pluralism, serving all kinds of Jewish students, and to a leadership model deeply rooted in relationships and connections inspired Rebecca to get involved with Hillel Israel and Hillel International’s Student Cabinet. 

Fellow Student Cabinet member Dylan crossed a few time zones in his travels from Los Angeles to  New York City, where he traveled the rest of the way by bus.  Dylan was born and raised in Los Angeles and grew up in a large Jewish community. When he started at the University of Washington, Seattle, he was struck by the experience of being the first Jewish person many students had ever met. It inspired him to reconnect with the Jewish practice and identity that had been less present in his life since his Bar Mitzvah. 

From picking up a “Shabbag” from Hillel to celebrate Shabbat in his dorm during the earlier days of COVID, to joining the Hillel International Student Cabinet, every step of Dylan’s Hillel journey is inspired by a desire to connect and grow with other Jewish students. 

Moments to remember:

For Dylan, Shabbat at the GSA was a unique experience that stands out to him from the weekend. “It is always rewarding to celebrate Shabbat, knowing that regardless of background, language, or hometown, Jewish people share this common belief, ritual, and practice. Even more so this weekend, with so many students from so many different backgrounds, it was meaningful to see that each person had a special part of the service that allowed them to immerse themselves in the experience,” Dylan reflected. 

Rebecca poses questions about leadership during her Hillel Talk

Rebecca remarked that one of the unique experiences at a Hillel gathering like the GSA is encountering students from all over the world. “Being part of a truly global movement gives me the opportunity to learn about different Jewish communities and experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered,” she said. Rebecca also gave one of the Hillel Talks at the GSA, where she shared her personal journey to Hillel and raised important questions with her peers about leadership values and priorities. She was honored by the opportunity to speak to and impact students from all over the world through this talk. Finally, spending Shabbat with such a diverse group of future Jewish leaders gave Rebecca a sense of the strength and beauty of the global community she belongs to through Hillel. 

What’s in my bag going home?

For both Rebecca and Dylan, the biggest idea they’re packing in their bags to take home with them (along with their Hillel swag) is a much deeper understanding of the different experiences that Jewish students face in different countries. 

Rebecca was struck by how much of the Jewish life that she takes for granted in Israel is different for students on North American college campuses and how many aspects of Jewish campus life in the U.S. were new to her. She reflected, “I want Israelis to be aware of how much we take for granted that isn’t so simple on North American campuses. Everything from access to kosher food to dealing with a different kind of antisemitism is important to learn about and discuss.” 

Dylan offers closing remarks at the end of the GSA

Similarly, Dylan was also impacted by the conversations and insights from students who are involved in Hillels outside of North America. He shared, “The global Hillels have such a huge impact on their communities. I especially admire the Jewish commitment and excitement of students who are living in countries with so many other dominant religions and cultures.” 

As Dylan and Rebecca travel home and continue to integrate their experiences into their respective Hillels, they will be doing so alongside a cohort of student leaders who are excited and passionate about their Hillels, their communities, and their Jewish futures.